Monday, March 31, 2008

SOS PRESIDENT VISITS GULU


On Easter Sunday 23rd March 2008, SOS Children’s Village Gulu was blessed to host SOS Children's Villages President, Mr. Helmut Kutin for the second time, four years after his first visit to northern Uganda in 2003. When the plane landed at about 10.00am, two SOS children dressed in traditional attire, received him and handed him an “Awula” (an Acholi object made out of goat tail traditionally used by kings with their walking stick). He then proceeded to the Children’s Village and arrived amidst tremendous drumming and dancing by the SOS children and youth from the community. He was welcomed by the excited co-workers and toured the project, led by the village director.

Mr Kutin visited the SOS Day Care Centre where he distributed balloons to the toddlers and had fun with them, before going to the clinic. From the clinic he went to where all SOS beneficiaries had gathered and cut a cake for them. He then met the SOS mothers and co-workers, and the village director briefed him about the current status of the project. He thereafter spoke to the staff and his courageous words and humour will always be remembered by many.

Afterwards Mr Kutin walked the ½ km distance to the construction site of the new village where he planted a memorial tree in the presence of local leaders, among others. He was impressed by the progress. Finally, before leaving Gulu Mr Kutin had lunch with the SOS co-workers.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Lightening Causes Children's Deaths in Gulu

On Thursday 13th March 2008, at around 4.30pm, a tragedy happened in Pece Stadium when lightening killed two children and left 35 others seriously injured, during an afternoon downpour. The injured were immediately taken to Gulu Independent Hospital, where they are still hospitalized. The dead were buried in their respective ancestral homes on Saturday 15th March 2008.

Pece Stadium is approximately 20 metres away from SOS Children’s Village Gulu. The tragedy struck when children from over 10 Primary Schools in Gulu municipality were participating in the annual Inter-Primary Athletics Competitions. About 10 SOS children, participating in athletics in their respective schools, narrowly escaped.

The day started normally but later in the early afternoon, clouds started forming. This was followed by a heavy downpour, after a long period of dry season. The rainfall was characterized by lightening and thunder. The first time it struck, everybody in our project became uneasy because of the scary sound it made, comparable to nothing else. Two minutes later, it struck again and again. Everyone was in total confusion but having nowhere to run for rescue. We fidgeted to switch off our office equipment and electricity. When it stopped raining, news about the death of two children spread in Gulu.

Stories started unfolding about other similar incidents in which people died in Pece Stadium. Sometime back in the 1970s, the then President, Idi Amin, narrowly escaped death when lightening struck someone not far from where he was seated. Another time a big snake fell from a tree and consequently a lady died in a stampede, when people were running away for their lives. Local people reportedly associate those tragedies with some evil spirit that roams in Pece Stadium. Stories are many but it all reminds us of one thing: installing lightening arrestors in lightening prone areas to prevent such tragic happenings

Today the 17th March 2008, a requiem service was organized by the Gulu district authorities in which religious leaders, local leaders and over 15 schools participated to pray for the deceased children. .

Thursday, March 13, 2008

DEFYING ALL ODDS IN THE FSP!

The struggle to attain self reliance among some of the care-givers (parents/relatives/guardians etc) of the Family Strengthening Program (FSP) Gulu has been remarkable! This is evident by some women defying all odds through engaging themselves in activities like brick making, traditionally taken to be a man’s work. Acayo Florence (not real name), 52years old and a caregiver in Laroo division in Gulu Municipality, is actively engaged in making bricks for sale.

Despite the scorching afternoon heat, Acayo and her sister climb high up to assemble the bricks for burning, while other family members throw them the bricks from below. Every one is sweating but seemingly enjoying their work, expecting to gain from their sweat.

As I approach them in one of my home visits, everyone pauses and I hear the children saying “SOS, SOS’’ while Acayo welcomes me with a contagious smile. I notice that everyone is totally covered with mud, and not to interfere, I ask them to continue with their work so that I can take a few snaps when they are in action. This brings more excitement as everyone apparently becomes so busy outdoing one another.

I later engaged Acayo in a discussion to discover the whole idea behind the brick project. In her explanation she was very certain of the market for bricks, which she attributes to the increased demand in the construction industry and more importantly to the rapid development taking place around Gulu University.

Their plan is to make 40,000 bricks for sale at a rate of 100 to120 Uganda shillings each. She projects to earn between 3.5 and 4 million Uganda shillings. According to her estimation, the total expense of producing the bricks will not exceed 800, 000 Uganda shillings. Acayo asserts that the proceeds from their project will be invested in some other business and the balance will meet the family’s daily basic needs and payment of school fees for her children whose school fees are not paid by SOS. In that family, SOS supports three children with school fees and one family member is a member of the SOS Revolving Fund.

All in all, Acayo has exhibited hard work, determination and patience, which she believes will reward her abundantly. She appreciates the good ideas and support given by SOS that has enabled her to be more focused.

by Okello Jimmy-FSP Program Support Assistant, SOS Gulu

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Lawala game takes root in SOS Gulu

Last year, in one of our stories, I promised to tell you more about the Lawala game, a recently revived and modified traditional Acholi game that has been out of practice within the Acholi community, for more than twenty years, due to the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency in northern Uganda.

The game derives its name from the piece of playing equipment called Lawala, which simply means a ring. The ring is made of rubber with a diameter of 18cm. The second important tool is the Tii, which is a strong straight stick of 1 ½ m. long with a pointed rubber tail and a flattened head.

Traditionally this game was played using reeds to make both the Lawala and the Tii. The game was played by two teams coming from different locations, clans or local administrations. It had neither established playing fields nor rules. The playing fields were footpaths or overgrazed communal land. It was generally characterized by no planned scores, rudimentary tools, unlimited number of players, absence of well demarcated playing fields and lack of rules and umpires. The gain was only limited to imparting hunting skills by adults to the young ones because hunting then played an important role in the Acholi life style.

A team of Acholi youth, composed of Acholi-Makerere University students, formed an association in 2007 called the Lawala Game Association, with an ultimate aim of reviving the game, modernizing it, formalizing it and promoting it. They contacted SOS Children’s Village Gulu and other schools in Gulu municipality requesting to allow them to train children and youth on the new game, not only as a leisure activity but also for physical fitness and psychosocial therapy. The association also has a wider plan of using the game to promote peace building and reconciliation within the entire war affected Acholi community. As child care givers and advocates of peace, SOS Children’s Village Gulu welcomed the initiative and that’s how our children got to be trained on the Lawala game, which has become a favorite game amongst them. Trainings take place every Sunday in the evening.

How it is played

Unlike the traditional game, the formalized game is played in an organized field with a total length of 100 metres, which makes it possible to be played on a football field. The tools used are modified. There is a referee who stands at the centre line, helped by two assistant referees standing on the sides of the pitch.

There are two teams with six players each. Five team members act as tii men (shooters) while the sixth team member, skilled at throwing the ring, stands at the outer semicircle on the extreme end of the field. The two teams stand at opposite sides, having ample space to avoid injuring themselves while throwing the sticks. The Lawala men on each side alternately throw the ring, which must roll straight, directed to the side of the opponents. The tii men’s work is to aim at throwing the stick through the centre of the ring as it passes past them.

When a throw is made, there are three things which normally happen: a throw with a shot, a throw without a shot, and a no-throw. A throw with a shot means the opposite team endeavours to shoot through the ring and is immediately given a chance to make a throw. A throw without shot is when the Lawala man throws the ring and the opposite team members fail to shoot through it. And a no-throw means the Lawala man has made a mistake. This happens when the ring is thrown out of the pitch before the position of the 3rd tii man of the opposite side. Positions are numbered one to five from the inner circle of the pitch. Throws are associated with a drive to push your opponent to their last position of play, which earns your team a bonus of five marks when you push your opponents to the last position of the pitch. When a team makes a no-throw, it is pushed one position towards the Lawala throwing area.

How scores are made

Each player in the field has a chance to earn a score for his team when a throw is made. The tii man in the first position from the inner circle earns five points if he is the first player to throw the stick through the ring. The second tii man earns four points, the third three points, the fourth two points and the fifth one point. The Lawala man of the opposite team earns a point if he can run and catch the Lawala thrown without a shot, to save his team from losing all the points and a chance to throw. The work of the assistant referees is to tell the referee the position of the tii man that has made a score. Scores are then recorded by the referee. After each team has had 15 rounds of throwing the Lawala, they then change sides. The team which scores most points at the end of the game emerges the overall winner.
How scores are made